How Long Do Wedges Last? – Golf Myths Unplugged

When Is It Time For New Wedges?

If you follow the equipment on the PGA Tour, you regularly hear about players swapping out their wedges to have fresh grooves.  If you look at the golf bags of your fellow amateurs, you’ll regularly see wedges that measure their age in decades.

So who has it right?  Are the pros changing wedges unnecessarily or are amateurs missing out on performance?  We collected the data to bring you the answers.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Wear affects a wedge’s performance in perfect conditions

Myth #2 – Wear affects a wedge’s performance in wet conditions

Myth #3 – Sand shots wear out wedges faster than normal shots 

Myth #4 – Golfers should replace their wedges every year

How We Tested

We started this test with three brand new Cleveland RTX-3 wedges.  We tested each wedge on a launch monitor under four conditions: pitch shot (approx. 50 yards), full swing, and pitch and full swing with a wet club face.

After initial testing, each wedge was used for a different type of shot.  One wedge hit 1,000 pitches, another hit 1,000 full shots, and the third hit 1,000 bunker shots.  Each wedge was re-tested after 500 shots and 1,000 shots.

All testing was done with the help of Club Champion.

The Results

In perfect conditions – a dry, clean club hitting a dry, clean ball – grooves are irrelevant.  Whether the club is brand new or has been used for 1,000 bunker shots, the launch, spin, distance, and descent angles were all virtually identical.

In speaking with Cleveland about this, they made the analogy to car tires.  On a track that’s free of dirt or debris, you can use slick tires and get great performance.

While this is an interesting finding, we don’t play golf in perfect conditions.  On to Myth #2.

When water was introduced to the club face, the wear on the grooves became a significant factor.  Across our testing conditions, we saw spin reductions of 5% to 20% and launch angles went up due to loss of friction.

To return to Cleveland’s tire analogy: when there’s water or dirt on the road, you need treads to maintain a hold on the road.  The wedge’s grooves channel the water away so that the club face can grip the ball.  When the grooves are worn down, the water stays between the club face and ball and reduces friction.

What the averages fail to show is even more important: the worn-groove shots were very inconsistent.  Some shots would spin like they did in the pre-test; others carried no spin at all.

The effects of 500 pitch shots off a mat were negligible.  500 shots from the bunker, however, sapped significant performance from our wedges.  On average, the wedge that had hit 500 bunker shots produced over 700 RPM less spin on a full swing.  After 1,000 bunker shots, that loss was over 1,000 RPM.

If you use one wedge as your primary sand club, it should definitely get priority for replacement.

This one is tough to answer definitively because there are many factors, but it seems plausible that the avid golfer should replace his or her wedges annually.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Are you playing and practicing off mats and good quality turf or sandy soil?
  • Are you hitting premium golf balls or rock hard range balls?
  • Do you clean your range balls before hitting them?  Often they’re covered in sand.
  • Do you practice from the bunker?

Additionally, you don’t need to replace your wedges as a set.  Personally, I wear out my 60 degree wedge fastest.  It gets about half of my bunker work, nearly all of my chipping and pitching, and the bulk of my short game practice.  My 50 degree, on the other hand, hits a handful of range balls and some shots on the course.  It will last a long time.

Also keep in mind that you can’t trust the look of your wedges.  We chose the black finish on the Cleveland RTX-3 wedges for this test specifically because they would show wear the most.  However, despite hitting 1,000 bunker shots and suffering noticeable performance loss, the wedge looks pretty good.  Kudos to Cleveland for a very durable finish.

Ultimately, it’s time to replace your wedges when you see the performance decline.

Keep Your Wedges Clean!

The most startling piece of information was how moisture and debris can impact the quality of your wedge shots.  One spray of water caused a brand new wedge to lose 30% of its spin on a full swing!

It is important to keep your grooves fresh, but much more important to keep your club face clean and dry.

The Data

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks, pretty much just common sense. Replace the wedge most often that sees duty the most. I use my Callaway 60* PM for bunker use only and my Nike pro VR 60* for chips and pitches exclusively.. Both seem to offer longer use excersizing this method. Note, after 18 months the Nike is showing signs of needed replacement. It is used a great deal in wet conditions.

  2. What about regular use of a groove sharpening tool? Won’t that eliminate the need for replacing the wedge?

    • Matt Saternus

      Rick,

      If your tool is actually hard/sharp enough to enlarge the grooves, then you won’t need to replace the wedge. However, use of that tool is likely making your clubs non-compliant with USGA rules (if you care).

      Something interesting I learned from John Rae, Cleveland Golf’s VP of R&D, is that use of groove cleaners actually shortens the life of the grooves. He said, half seriously, that if you want to prolong the life of your wedge, don’t clean the grooves ever (obviously that means you’re giving up the benefit of having them).

      Best,

      Matt

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